Category Archives: Evangelicals

Read the Catechism in a Year: Day 2

Prologue (1 – 25)

“FATHER, … this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” “God our Savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” – than the name of JESUS.

III. THE AIM AND INTENDED READERSHIP OF THE CATECHISM

11 This catechism aims at presenting an organic synthesis of the essential and fundamental contents of Catholic doctrine, as regards both faith and morals, in the light of the Second Vatican Council and the whole of the Church’s Tradition. Its principal sources are the Sacred Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, the liturgy, and the Church’s Magisterium. It is intended to serve “as a point of reference for the catechisms or compendia that are composed in the various countries”.

12 This work is intended primarily for those responsible for catechesis: first of all the bishops, as teachers of the faith and pastors of the Church. It is offered to them as an instrument in fulfilling their responsibility of teaching the People of God. Through the bishops, it is addressed to redactors of catechisms, to priests, and to catechists. It will also be useful reading for all other Christian faithful.

IV. STRUCTURE OF THIS CATECHISM

13 The plan of this catechism is inspired by the great tradition of catechisms which build catechesis on four pillars: the baptismal profession of faith (the Creed), the sacraments of faith, the life of faith (the Commandments), and the prayer of the believer (the Lord’s Prayer).

Part One: The Profession of Faith

14 Those who belong to Christ through faith and Baptism must confess their baptismal faith before men. First therefore the Catechism expounds revelation, by which God addresses and gives himself to man, and the faith by which man responds to God (Section One). The profession of faith summarizes the gifts that God gives man: as the Author of all that is good; as Redeemer; and as Sanctifier. It develops these in the three chapters on our baptismal faith in the one God: the almighty Father, the Creator; his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior; and the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, in the Holy Church (Section Two).

Part Two: The Sacraments of Faith

15 The second part of the Catechism explains how God’s salvation, accomplished once for all through Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit, is made present in the sacred actions of the Church’s liturgy (Section One), especially in the seven sacraments (Section Two).

Part Three: The Life of Faith

16 The third part of the Catechism deals with the final end of man created in the image of God: beatitude, and the ways of reaching it — through right conduct freely chosen, with the help of God’s law and grace (Section One), and through conduct that fulfills the twofold commandment of charity, specified in God’s Ten Commandments (Section Two).

Part Four: Prayer in the Life of Faith

17 The last part of the Catechism deals with the meaning and importance of prayer in the life of believers (Section One). It concludes with a brief commentary on the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer (Section Two), for indeed we find in these the sum of all the good things which we must hope for, and which our heavenly Father wants to grant us.

 Day 1 – Day 3

Catholic Media Coalition Joins Bishops To Defend Religious Freedom Against the HHS Mandate

The Catholic Media Coalition praised the Catholic bishops of the United States today for their unanimous call to defend the First Amendment freedom of religion guaranteed to religious institutions and people of faith. The Obama administration’s mandate requiring religious institutions to provide contraception including abortifacients and requiring  individuals to participate in health plans covering these moral evils is a direct assault on the First Amendment freedom of religion and the free exercise clause.

Mary Ann Kreitzer, President, CMC president, said, “We join with our bishops in opposing the administration’s unprecedented assault on religious rights and freedom of conscience. The HHS mandate does not just impact Catholics, but every religious institution and individual who acts from deeply-held faith-based beliefs. Many of our forefathers fled the old world because of religious persecution. They established a new world where the right to worship God was respected and protected as an unalienable right. The Founders of this nation would be appalled at the abject tyranny of the Obama administration. As faithful laity, we stand in solidarity with our bishops and demand an end to the HHS mandate. There is no compromise that can make it acceptable to Catholics.”

Among the statements of the bishops applauded were the many letters read in dioceses throughout the country calling on the Catholic faithful to oppose the mandate and particularly the letter to the U.S. Bishops from USCCB head, Cardinal Timothy Dolan:

This is not just about contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and sterilization—although all should recognize the injustices involved in making them part of a universal mandated health care program. It is not about Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. It is about people of faith. This is first and foremost a matter of religious liberty for all. If the government can, for example, tell Catholics that they cannot be in the insurance business today without violating their religious convictions, where does it end? This violates the constitutional limits on our government, and the basic rights upon which our country was founded.

CMC joins Cardinal Dolan in affirming that the issue is not simply contraception or abortion, but “religious liberty for all.” We call on all Catholics to stand in solidarity with our spiritual shepherds to protect the rights of people of conscience.

@OWSatanic

This photo is from the “Occupy Wall Street” inspired riots in Rome. At one point rioters from the “Indignant” movement stormed into a Catholic church, tore down a crucifix and smashed that statue. Damages were around $1.4 million. HT/GUY C. STEVENSON

Preaching Biblical Religion…

Saint Polycarp
Saint Polycarp

The Bible and the Fathers

BY DR. SCOTT HAHN ON 10.13.11

It was the Bible that made me read the Fathers.
When I was studying for the Presbyterian ministry, I wanted to understand the world where Jesus lived and where the apostles preached. I wanted to defend the New Testament canon against its latest round of challenges, for example — against those who would place the newfound “Gnostic Gospels” on the same footing as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
My research into that world was my introduction to the Christians who lived in that world: the Fathers of the Church. I first turned to the writings of the men who appeared most often in the Bible commentaries I read, the men who knew the apostles — the so-called Apostolic Fathers. Clement of Rome knew Peter and Paul. Polycarp knew John. Ignatius lived in Antioch, the city where the disciples were first called Christians, and where the Church received the testimony of several of the apostles. Clement, Polycarp, and Ignatius knew the apostles, and they quoted the New Testament books, and they rejected the works of heretics. They were eminently useful to me.
So I eagerly turned to the writers who were the spiritual heirs to these men — the authors of the next generation: Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Melito. And again I found Christians who witnessed to the Bible, preached the Bible, interpreted the Bible. Indeed, they talked about little more than the Bible.
Yet I began to notice that they read the Bible differently from the way I did as an evangelical Protestant. They read the Old Testament in light of the New, the New in light of the Old, and always with the liturgy in mind. They saw the sacraments, especially Baptism and the Eucharist, as the ordinary yet mysterious way that Christians entered the drama of the Bible. In the liturgy, they not only heard the story, they lived it. They received salvation in the way Jesus had provided for them, when he commanded his Apostles to “Do this in memory of me” and “Baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
The Fathers spoke constantly about the Scriptures. They had none of the study aids we have today in libraries, software, and seminaries. Nor could most of them have owned complete editions of the Bible. To have all the books of the Bible copied out would have been terrifically expensive, and would have required months of labor by a skilled scribe.
The Fathers possessed none of the advantages I possessed. Yet they knew the Bible as well as any professor or pastor I had ever met, and they exceeded everyone in their insights. From them — especially the earliest Fathers — I learned a covenant theology that was biblical and Catholic.
Having studied these early Christian texts, I never understood how some of my friends could place the Scriptures in opposition to the Fathers, as if the Fathers were actually opposed to anything in the Bible, as if we should have to choose one or another.
The Fathers preached biblical religion and they lived it, and they led me to find it in its fullness, in the Roman Catholic Church. I’m not the only…    …one who’s followed the Fathers down that road to glory. I’ve encountered countless cradle Catholics who have “rediscovered their roots,” and I’ve been accompanied by countless converts as well.
It was the Fathers who received the Scriptures on our behalf — on behalf of the Church. It was the Fathers who faithfully preserved the Scriptures — copying them out by hand over and over again, since there were no printing presses or electronic media. It was the Fathers who put their lives at risk by using their homes as a refuge for the Scriptures, when to do so was a capital offense.
In the coming months, we at the St. Paul Center will have many opportunities to celebrate these works of the Fathers. The last weekend in October, I’ll be speaking with my colleague Mike Aquilina (author of The Fathers of the Church) at a conference on “The Fathers and the Bible” at St. Lambert Parish in Skokie, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. And the upcoming issue of our journal, Letter and Spirit, will examine the same theme of the Bible and the Fathers, with contributions by many renowned scholars.
You make this work possible — and so much more. You ensure that the “Faith of Our Fathers” is “living still,” in spite of all the obstacles our culture places in the way. I know these times are challenging for you, as they are for everyone (especially nonprofits!), so I am even more grateful for the support you give us: your prayers, your encouragement, your contributions.
If I don’t see you in Skokie this month, I’ll meet you — and the Fathers of the Church — in the pages of Letter and Spirit.

The Pillars of Unbelief: Six modern thinkers who’ve harmed the Christian mind — Part I: Niccolo Machiavelli (1496-1527)

SOURCE(1) The Pillars of Unbelief – Machiavelli 

By Dr Peter Kreeft

Machiavelli – inventor of “the new morality”

We need to talk about “enemies” of the faith because the life of faith is a real war. So say all the prophets, Apostles, martyrs and our Lord Himself.

Yet, we try to avoid talking about enemies. Why?

Partly because of our fear of confusing spiritual with material enemies; of hating the sinner along with the sin; of forgetting that “our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Eph. 6:12).

But that fear is more unfounded today than ever in the past. No age has been more suspicious of militarism, more terrified of the horrors of physical war, than ours. And no age has been more prone to confuse the sin with the sinner, not by hating the sinner along with the sin but by loving the sin along with the sinner. We often use “compassion” as an equivalent for moral relativism.

We’re also soft. We don’t like to fight because fighting means suffering and sacrifice. War may not quite be hell, but it’s damned uncomfortable. And anyway, we’re not sure there’s anything worth fighting for. Perhaps we lack courage because we lack a reason for courage.

This is how we think as moderns, but not as Catholics. As Catholics we know life is spiritual warfare and that there are spiritual enemies. Once we admit that, the next step follows inevitably. It is essential in warfare to know your enemy. Otherwise, his spies pass by undetected. So this series is devoted to knowing our spiritual enemies in the struggle for the modern heart. We’ll discuss six modern thinkers who’ve had an enormous impact on our everyday life. They have also done great harm to the Christian mind.

Their names: Machiavelli, the inventor of “the new morality”; Kant, the subjectivizer of Truth; Nietzsche, the self-proclaimed “Anti-Christ”; Freud, the founder of the “sexual revolution”; Marx, the false Moses for the masses; and Sartre, the apostle of absurdity.

Niccolo Machiavelli (1496-1527) was the founder of modern political and social philosophy, and seldom in the history of thought has there been a more total revolution. Machiavelli knew how radical he was. He compared his work to Columbus’ as the discoverer of a new world, and to Moses’ as the leader of a new chosen people who would exit the slavery of moral ideas into a new promised land of power and practicality.

Machiavelli’s revolution can be summarized in six points.

For all previous social thinkers, the goal of political life was virtue. A good society was conceived as one in which people are good. There was no “double standard” between individual and social goodness-until Machiavelli. With him, politics became no longer the art of the good but the art of the possible. His influence on this point was enormous. All major social and political philosophers (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Mill, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Dewey) subsequently rejected the goal of virtue, just as Machiavelli lowered the standard and nearly everyone began to salute the newly masted flag.

Machiavelli’s argument was that traditional morals were like the stars; beautiful but too distant to cast any useful light on our earthly path. We need instead man-made lanterns; in other words, attainable goals. We must take our bearings from the earth, not from the heavens; from what men and societies actually do, not from what they ought to do.

The essence of Machiavelli’s revolution was to judge the ideal by the actual rather than the actual by the ideal. An ideal is good for him, only if it is practical; thus, Machiavelli is the father of pragmatism. Not only does “the end justify the means” — any means that work — but the means even justify the end, in the sense that an end is worth pursuing only if there are practical means to attain it. In other words, the new summum bonum, or greatest good is success. (Machiavelli sounds like not only the first pragmatist but the first American pragmatist!)

Machiavelli didn’t just lower the moral standards; he abolished them. More than a pragmatist, he was an anti-moralist. The only relevance he saw morality having to success was to stand in its way. He taught that it was necessary for a successful prince “to learn how not to be good (“The Prince, ch. 15), how to break promises, to lie and cheat and steal (ch. 18).

Because of such shameless views, some of Machiavelli’s contemporaries saw “The Prince” as a book literally inspired by the devil. But modern scholars usually see it as drawn from science. They defend Machiavelli by claiming that he did not deny morality, but simply wrote a book about another subject, about what is rather than about what ought to be. They even praise him for his lack of hypocrisy, implying that moralism equals hypocrisy.

This is the common, modern misunderstanding of hypocrisy as not practicing what you preach. In that sense all men are hypocrites unless they stop preaching. Matthew Arnold defined hypocrisy as “the tribute vice pays to virtue.” Machiavelli was the first to refuse to pay even that tribute. He overcame hypocrisy not by raising practice to the level of preaching but of lowering preaching to the level of practice, by conforming the ideal to the real rather than the real to the ideal.

In fact, he really preaches: “Poppa, don’t preach!”-like the recent rock song. Can you imagine Moses saying, “Poppa, don’t preach!” to God on Mount Sinai? Or Mary to the angel? Or Christ in Gethsemane, instead of “Father, not my will but thine be done”? If you can, you are imagining hell, because our hope of heaven depends on those people having said to God, “Poppa, do preach!”

Actually, we have misdefined “hypocrisy.” Hypocrisy is not the failure to practice what you preach but the failure to believe it. Hypocrisy is propaganda.

By this definition Machiavelli was almost the inventor of hypocrisy, for he was almost the inventor of propaganda. He was the first philosopher who hoped to convert the whole world through propaganda.

He saw his life as a spiritual warfare against the Church and its propaganda. He believed that every religion was a piece of propaganda whose influence lasted between 1,666 and 3,000 years. And he thought Christianity would end long before the world did, probably around the year 1666, destroyed either by barbarian invasions from the East (what is now Russia) or by a softening and weakening of the Christian West from within, or both. His allies were all lukewarm Christians who loved their earthly fatherland more than heaven, Caesar more than Christ, social success more than virtue. To them he addressed his propaganda. Total candor about his ends would have been unworkable, and confessed atheism fatal, so he was careful to avoid explicit heresy. But his was the destruction of “the Catholic fake” and his means was aggressive secularist propaganda. (One might argue, perhaps peevishly, that he was the father of the modern media establishment.)

He discovered that two tools were needed to command men’s behavior and thus to control human history: the pen and the sword, propaganda and arms. Thus both minds and bodies could be dominated, and domination was his goal. He saw all of human life and history as determined by only two forces: virtu (force) and fortuna (chance). The simple formula for success was the maximization of virtu and the minimization of fortuna. He ends “The Prince” with this shocking image: “Fortune is a woman, and if she is to be submissive it is necessary to beat and coerce her” (ch. 25). In other words, the secret of success is a kind of rape.

For the goal of control, arms are needed as well as propaganda, and Machiavelli is a hawk. He believed that “you cannot have good laws without good arms, and where there are good arms, good laws inevitably follow” (ch. 12). In other words justice “comes out of a barrel of a gun,” to adapt Mao Tse-tung’s phrase. Machiavelli believed that “all armed prophets have conquered and unarmed prophets have come to grief” (ch. 6). Moses, then, must have used arms which, the Bible failed to report; Jesus, the supreme unarmed prophet, came to grief; He was crucified and not resurrected. But His message conquered the world through propaganda, through intellectual arms. This was the war Machiavelli set out to fight.

Social relativism also emerged from Machiavelli’s philosophy. He recognized no laws above those of different societies and since these laws and societies originated in force rather than morality, the consequence is that morality is based on immorality. The argument went like this: Morality can only come from society, since there is no God and no God-given universal natural moral law. But every society originated in some revolution or violence. Roman society, e.g., the origin of Roman law, itself originated with Romulus’ murder of his brother Remus. All human history begins with Cain’s murder of Abel. Therefore, the foundation of law is lawlessness. The foundation of morality is immorality.

The argument is only as strong as its first premise, which-like all sociological relativism, including that which dominates the minds of writers and readers of nearly all sociology textbooks today-is really implicit atheism.

Machiavelli criticized Christian and classical ideals of charity by a similar argument. He asked: How do you get the goods you give away? By selfish competition. All goods are gotten at another’s expense: If my slice of the pie is so much more, others’ must be that much less. Thus unselfishness depends on selfishness.

The argument presupposes materialism, for spiritual goods do not diminish when shared or given away, and do not deprive another when I acquire them. The more money I get, the less you have and the more I give away, the less I have. But love, truth, friendship and wisdom increase rather than decrease when shared. The materialist simply does not see this, or care about it.

Machiavelli believed we are all inherently selfish. There was for him no such thing as an innate conscience or moral instinct. So the only way to make men behave morally was by force, in fact totalitarian force, to compel them to act contrary to their nature. The origins of modern totalitarianism also go back to Machiavelli.

If a man is inherently selfish, then only fear and not love can effectively move him. Thus Machiavelli wrote, “It is far better to be feared than loved…[for] men worry less about doing an injury to one who makes himself loved than to one who makes himself feared. The bond of love is one which men, wretched creatures that they are, break when it is to their advantage to do so, but fear is strengthened by a dread of punishment which is always effective” (ch. 17).

The most amazing thing about this brutal philosophy is that it won the modern mind, though only by watering down or covering up its darker aspects. Machiavelli’s successors toned down his attack on morality and religion, but they did not return to the idea of a personal God or objective and absolute morality as the foundation of society. Machiavelli’s narrowing down came to appear as a widening out. He simply lopped off the top story of the building of life; no God, only man; no soul, only body; no spirit, only matter; no ought, only is. Yet this squashed building appeared (through propaganda) as a Tower of Babel, this confinement appeared as a liberation from the “confinements” of traditional morality, like taking your belt out a notch.

Satan is not fairy tale; he is a brilliant strategist and psychologist and he is utterly real. Machiavelli’s line of argument is one of Satan’s most successful lies to this day. Whenever we are tempted, he is using this lie to make evil appear as good and desirable; to make his slavery appear as freedom and “the glorious freedom of the sons of God” appear as slavery. The “Father of Lies” loves to tell not little lies but The Big Lie, to turn the truth upside down. And he gets away with it-unless we blow the cover of the Enemy’s spies.

Born Again Catholics. — Are Catholics Saved, by having been Born Again?

HAT TIP: Thinking Catholic Strategic Center

Readings for Sunday, September 25, 2011, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ez 18:25-28
Ps 25:4-9
Phil 2:1-11
Matt 21:28-32

I was in the cemetery, standing at the head of the casket, leading the graveside prayers for my life-long Catholic parishioner. I decided, since we had already offered a full funeral Mass, to abbreviate this service and leave some time for the Protestant minister who had been invited by a daughter of the deceased. Looking up, I noticed that he had appeared, and stood opposite me. I nodded, stepped back, and he began by reading a passage from the Bible. He then told us, a mostly Catholic group, how at the daughter’s request he had visited the deceased in the hospital and asked him if he had been saved. The man answered, no, he never had known how to do it. The minister told him how, and the man did, and so the minister wanted to assure us that our departed had been saved, and therefore we should know he was with the Lord in heaven.

One couldn’t help but feel that the opposing team had scored. But that may not have been the reverend’s intent. In fact he seemed ill at ease, never looked at me, and left promptly. But, what about it? Are Catholics saved? Or are we, kept in ignorance by the Whore of Babylon, doomed to hell because we have not accepted Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior?

If someone asks you if you are “saved”, or they might say “born again”, they are probably operating out of the “born again Christian” theology, familiar to anyone who has seen Billy Graham on TV. According to this theology we are all sinners, doomed to hell unless we repent of sin and turn to Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. At that point you are saved, and forever saved. You did nothing, and in fact can do nothing to earn God’s mercy, and so you cannot lose that mercy either once you’ve received it. In summary, salvation is by faith alone, not by works, and once saved always saved.

The Catholic faith is that, true, we are sinners, and we cannot earn God’s mercy; salvation is a grace, a free gift; but it is a gift we must respond to and put into action. Salvation is more like a life-long journey of many decisions than a single moment’s decision; the grace of God making it all possible, but our acting on that possibility being part of the process. To say “I am now saved, and am forever saved” is presumptuous. And there are many Bible passages to support the Catholic view. I will quote the briefest I can think of. It’s in Paul’s Letter to the Galations, where he is arguing that observance of the Jewish ceremonial law is not required for salvation, and he says:

”For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” – Gal 5:6

St. Paul is the great authority quoted by the “faith alone” crowd, and he said it’s all a matter of faith working through love. He could have added here what he made plain elsewhere, that both faith and the works of love are made possible by God’s grace, so there are no grounds for boasting.

But let’s not plunge headlong into the whole faith vs. works debate. The born-again Christian wants to know if you have been born again, and the honest answer is “yes!”, because every Catholic has been baptized. Here you could quote what Jesus said to Nicodemus, recorded in the Gospel of John, ch. 3:

”Truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” – Jn 3:5

And this is what the Catholic Church has always taught, that the Sacrament of water baptism forgives sin and confers the gift of the Holy Spirit, adopting the baptized person into the life of God merited for us by Christ.

Objection: “But you were only a baby and didn’t know what was happening, much less accept Jesus for yourself.”

Your answer: Exactly! That’s how little Catholics believe that we earn salvation by what we do. God doesn’t even wait for that little child to grow up and reach the age of reason and make his own personal faith commitment. We take seriously what you claim to believe, that our relationship with God is God’s initiative, not our own. Christ did not wait for any personal recognition or affirmation on the part of children before he said, “let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for it is to just such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”

But your born-again questioner is wanting some evidence that a Catholic truly repents of sin and personally accepts Jesus as Lord and savior. So tell them about the sacrament of Confirmation, when the candidate reaffirms, on her own volition, the faith commitment made for her at baptism, and consider the annual Easter renewal of baptismal promises that everyone in church is guided through:

Do you reject sin so as to live in the freedom of God’s children? I do.
Do you reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin? I do.
Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness? I do.

Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth? I do.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father? I do.
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and lfe everlasting? I do.

Do you mean it? Okay, you have just repented of sin and professed faith that Jesus is Lord. If this is what the born-again Christian is looking for, you’ve just been born again.

But no need to wait for Easter. What does a Catholic do at every Sunday Mass? He or she starts by confessing that he is an unworthy sinner, has sinned through his own fault, in thought and word, in what he has done and failed to do, and he looks to God’s mercy, not his own efforts, for salvation. “May God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.”

Does your born-again friend need more evidence? Stay on through Mass until the priest raises the Eucharist before the people and says – and here I will use the new Missal translation because it is closer to the Bible story of the centurion who trusted Jesus with faith – the priest says, to all present:

”Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”

Look at Jesus, look to Jesus, the Lamb-Victim sent by God to merit our salvation by his sacrifice on the cross. And the Catholic responds:

”Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

“Lord, I am not worthy”. Does that sound like someone standing on the merits of their own good works?

“Only say the word and my soul shall be healed”. Who would say that but someone who looks to Jesus, their savior, to give what they cannot give themselves?

Is more evidence needed that the devout, believing Catholic has been born again and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior? There is more evidence to give, but this is surely enough for any one of us, being visited and questioned by a well-meaning minister, to answer, honestly and with conviction:

”Yes. And if you only knew, you’d be Catholic too.”

END OF POST

Full Text/ Immigration and the ‘Next America’ perspectives from our history

The following is an adapted address given by the Archbishop of Los Angeles at the Napa Institute on 28 July 2011.

Our political debate about immigration in America frustrates me. Often I think we are just talking around the edges of the real issues. Both sides of this argument are inspired by a beautiful, patriotic idea of America’s history and values. But lately I’ve been starting to wonder: What America are we really talking about?

America is changing and it has been changing for a long time. The forces of globalization are changing our economy and George Washington (1732-1799), First President of the United Statesforcing us to rethink the scope and purpose of our government. Threats from outside enemies are changing our sense of national sovereignty. America is changing on the inside, too.

Our culture is changing. We have a legal structure that allows, and even pays for, the killing of babies in the womb. Our courts and legislatures are redefining the natural institutions of marriage and the family. We have an elite culture — in government, the media and academia — that is openly hostile to religious faith.

America is becoming a fundamentally different country. It is time for all of us to recognize this — no matter what our position is on the political issue of immigration. We need to recognize that immigration is part of a larger set of questions about our national identity and destiny. What is America? What does it mean to be an American? Who are we as a people, and where are heading as a country? What will the “next America” look like?

As Catholics who are faithful citizens in America we have to answer these questions within a larger frame of reference. As Catholics, we have to always remember that there is more to the life of any nation than the demands of the moment in politics, economics and culture. We have to consider all of those demands and the debates about them in light of God’s plan for the nations.

This is a big challenge for us in this culture. Our culture pushes us to “privatize” our faith, to separate our faith from our life in society. We always have to resist that temptation. We are called to live our faith in our businesses, homes and communities, and in our participation in public life. That means we have to bring a Catholic faith perspective to this debate about immigration. We cannot just think about this issue as Democrats or Republicans or as liberals or conservatives.

I think we all know the teachings of our Church on immigration. What we need to understand better is how to see immigration in light of America’s history and purposes, as seen through the perspective of our Catholic faith. When we understand immigration from this perspective we can see that immigration is not a problem for America. It’s an opportunity. Immigration is a key to our American renewal.

One of the problems we have today is that we have lost the sense of America’s national “story”. If our people know our history at all, what they know is incomplete. And when we don’t know the whole story, we end up with the wrong assumptions about American identity and culture.

The American story that most of us know is set in New England. It is the story of the pilgrims and the Mayflower, the first Thanksgiving, and John Winthrop’s sermon about a “city upon a hill”.

It is the story of great men like Washington, Jefferson and Madison. It’s the story of great documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. It is a beautiful story. It is also true. Every American should know these characters and the ideals and principles they fought for. From this story we learn that our American identity and culture are rooted in essentially Christian beliefs about the dignity of the human person.

But the story of the founding fathers and the truths they held to be self-evident is not the whole story about America. The rest of the story starts more than a century before the pilgrims. It starts in the 1520s in Florida and in the 1540s here in California.

It is the story not of colonial settlement and political and economic opportunity. It is the story of exploration and evangelization. This story is not Anglo-Protestant but Hispanic-Catholic. It is centered, not in New England but in Nueva España — New Spain — at opposite corners of the continent.

From this story we learn that before this land had a name its inhabitants were being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. The people of this land were called Christians before they were called Americans. And they were called this name in the Spanish, French and English tongues.

From this history, we learn that long before the Boston Tea Party, Catholic missionaries were celebrating the holy Mass on the soil of this continent. Catholics founded America’s oldest settlement, in St Augustine, Florida, in 1565. Immigrant missionaries were naming this continent’s rivers and mountains and territories for saints, sacraments and articles of the faith.

We take these names for granted now. But our American geography testifies that our nation was born from the encounter with Jesus Christ. Sacramento (“Holy Sacrament”). Las Cruces (“the Cross”).Corpus Christi (“Body of Christ”). Even the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, named for the precious blood of Christ.

The 19th-century historian John Gilmary Shea said it beautifully. Before there were houses in this land, there were altars: “Mass was said to hallow the land and draw down the blessing of heaven before the first step was taken to rear a human habitation. The altar was older than the hearth”.

This is the missing piece of American history. And today more than ever, we need to know this heritage of holiness and service — especially as American Catholics. Along with Washington and Jefferson, we need to know the stories of these great apostles of America. We need to know the French missionaries like Mother Joseph and the Jesuits St Isaac Jogues and Father Jacques Marquette, who came down from Canada to bring the faith to the northern half of our country. We need to know the Hispanic missionaries like the Franciscan Magin Catalá and the Jesuit Father Eusebio Kino, who came up from Mexico to evangelize the Southwest and the Northwest territories.

We should know the stories of people like Venerable Antonio Margil. He was a Franciscan priest and is one of my favorite figures from the first evangelization of America. Venerable Antonio left his homeland in Spain to come to the New World in 1683. He told his mother he was coming here — because “millions of souls [were] lost for want of priests to dispel the darkness of unbelief”.

People used to call him “the Flying Padre”. He traveled 40 or 50 miles every day, walking barefoot. Fray Antonio had a Blessed Junípero Serra (1713-1784), evangelizer in Californiatruly continental sense of mission. He established churches in Texas and Louisiana, and also in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico.

He was a priest of great courage and love. He escaped death many times at the hands of the native peoples he came to evangelize. Once he faced a firing squad of a dozen Indians armed with bows and arrows. Another time he was almost burned alive at the stake.

I came to know about Fray Antonio when I was the Archbishop of San Antonio. He preached there in 1719-1720 and founded the San José Mission there. He used to talk about San Antonio as the center of the evangelization of America. He said: “San Antonio… will be the headquarters of all the missions which God our Lord will establish… that in his good time all of this New World may be converted to his holy Catholic faith”.

This is the real reason for America, when we consider our history in light of God’s plan for the nations. America is intended to be a place of encounter with the living Jesus Christ. This was the motivation of the missionaries who came here first. America’s national character and spirit are deeply marked by the Gospel values they brought to this land. These values are what make the founding documents of our government so special.

Although founded by Christians, America has become home to an amazing diversity of cultures, religions and ways of life. This diversity flourishes precisely because our nation’s founders had a Christian vision of the human person, freedom, and truth.

G. K. Chesterton said famously that “America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed”. And that “creed”, as he recognized, is fundamentally Christian. It is the basic American belief that all men and women are created equal — with God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Every other nation in history has been established on the basis of common territory and ethnicity — the ties of land and kinship. America instead is based on this Christian ideal, on this creed that reflects the amazing universalism of the Gospel. As a result, we have always been a nation of nationalities. E pluribus unum. One people made from peoples of many nations, races, and creeds.

Throughout our history, problems have always arisen when we have taken this American creed for granted. Or when we have tried to limit it in some way. That’s why it is essential that today we remember the missionary history of America — and rededicate ourselves to the vision of America’s founding “creed”.

When we forget our country’s roots in the Hispanic-Catholic mission to the new world, we end up with distorted ideas about our national identity. We end up with an idea that Americans are descended from only white Europeans and that our culture is based only on the individualism, work ethic and rule of law that we inherited from our Anglo-Protestant forebears.

When that has happened in the past it has led to those episodes in our history that we are least proud of — the mistreatment of Native Americans; slavery; the recurring outbreaks of nativism and anti-Catholicism; the internment of Japanese Americans during World War ii; the misadventures of “manifest destiny”.

There are, of course, far more complicated causes behind these moments in our history. But at the root, I think we can see a common factor — a wrong-headed notion that “real Americans” are of some particular race, class, religion or ethnic background.

I worry that in today’s political debates over immigration we are entering into a new period of nativism. The intellectual justification for this new nativism was set out a few years ago in an influential book by the late Samuel Huntington of Harvard, called Who Are We?. He made a lot of sophisticated-sounding arguments, but his basic argument was that American identity and culture are threatened by Mexican immigration.

Authentic American identity “was the product of the distinct Anglo-Protestant culture of the founding settlers of America in the 17th and 18th centuries”, according to Huntington. By contrast, Mexicans’ values are rooted in a fundamentally incompatible “culture of Catholicism” which, Huntington argued, does not value self-initiative or the work ethic, and instead encourages passivity and an acceptance of poverty.

These are old and familiar nativist claims, and they are easy to discredit. One could point to the glorious legacy of Hispanic literature and art, or to Mexican-Americans’ and Hispanic-Americans’ accomplishments in business, government, medicine and other areas. Unfortunately, today we hear ideas like Huntington’s being repeated on cable TV and talk radio — and sometimes even by some of our political leaders.

There is no denying significant differences between Hispanic-Catholic and Anglo-Protestant cultural assumptions. This kind of bigoted thinking stems from an incomplete understanding of American history. Historically, both cultures have a rightful claim to a place in our national “story” — and in the formation of an authentic American identity and national character.

I believe American Catholics have a special duty today to be the guardians of the truth about the American spirit and our national identity. I believe it falls to us to be witnesses to a new kind of American patriotism.

We are called to bring out all that is noble in the American spirit. We are also called to challenge those who would diminish or “downsize” America’s true identity. Since I came to California, I have been thinking a lot about Bl. Junípero Serra, the Franciscan immigrant who came from Spain via Mexico to evangelize this great state.

Bl. Junípero loved the native peoples of this continent. He learned their local languages, customs and beliefs. He translated the Gospel and the prayers and teachings of the faith so that everyone could hear the mighty works of God in their own native tongue! He used to trace the sign of the cross on people’s foreheads and say to them, Amar a Dios! Love God!

This is a good way to understand our duty as Catholics in our culture today. We need to find a way to “translate” the Gospel of love for the people of our times. We need to remind our brothers and sisters of the truths taught by Bl. Junípero and his brother missionaries. That we are all children of the same Father in heaven. That our Father in heaven does not make some nationalities or racial groups to be “inferior” or less worthy of his blessings.

Catholics need to lead our country to a new spirit of empathy. We need to help our brothers and sisters to start seeing the strangers among us for who they truly are — and not according to political or ideological categories or definitions rooted in our own fears.

This is difficult, I know. I know it is a particular challenge to see the humanity of those immigrants who are here illegally. But the truth is that very few people “choose” to leave their homelands. Emigration is almost always forced upon people by the dire conditions they face in their lives.

Most of the men and women who are living in America without proper documentation have traveled hundreds even thousands of miles. They have left everything behind, risked their safety and their lives. They have done this, not for their own comfort or selfish interests. They have done this to feed their loved ones. To be good mothers and fathers. To be loving sons and daughters.

These immigrants — no matter how they came here — are people of energy and aspiration. They are people who are not afraid of hard work or sacrifice. They are nothing like the people Prof. Huntington and others are describing! These men and women have courage and the other virtues. The vast majority of them believe in Jesus Christ and love our Catholic Church, They share traditional American values of faith, family and community.

This is why I believe our immigrant brothers and sisters are the key to American renewal. And we all know that America is in need of renewal — economic and political, but also spiritual, moral and cultural renewal. I believe these men and women who are coming to this country will bring a new, youthful entrepreneurial spirit of hard work to our economy. I also believe they will help renew the soul of America.

In his last book, Memory and Identity, written the year he died, Bl. John Paul II said: “The history of all nations is called to take its place in the history of salvation”. We must look at immigration in the context of America’s need for renewal. And we need to consider both immigration and American renewal in light of God’s plan for salvation and the history of the nations.

The promise of America is that we can be one nation where men and women from every race, creed and national background may live as brothers and sisters. Each one of us is a child of that promise. If we trace the genealogies of almost everyone in America, the lines of descent will lead us out beyond our borders to some foreign land where each of our ancestors originally came from.

This inheritance comes to American Catholics now as a gift and as a duty. We are called to make our own contributions to this nation — through the way we live our faith in Jesus Christ as citizens. Our history shows us that America was born from the Church’s mission to the nations. The “next America” will be determined by the choices we make as Christian disciples and as American citizens. By our attitudes and actions, by the decisions we make, we are writing the next chapters of our American story.

May Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mother of the Americas, obtain for us the courage we need to do what our good Lord requires.

  José H. Gomez
August 11, 2011
[tags: America | Migrants]